Biodiversity Corridor planned for Montreal

Cavendish Boulevard

The disappearance of the borough’s tree cover and ground vegetation, including former agricultural lands, has left the area more and more vulnerable to climate change. In 2015, local authorities started looking into the idea of bringing nature back to its 42.8-square-kilometer territory, 70% of which is now a sea of asphalt occupied by industrial and commercial activities. Not to mention the fact that the borough is used as a major corridor for high-voltage power lines.

Thematic maps showing layers of intervention
Map of Montréal showing the Island’s natural habitats, the Borough of St-Laurent and the path of the future Biodiversity Corridor
Main intervention sites along the future Biodiversity Corridor
Thimens Boulevard

Detailed inventories of existing fauna and flora were produced, various studies were undertaken, and consultation sessions were held, leading to the idea of a Biodiversity Corridor.

Schematic diagrams
Philippe-Laheurte Park_Ecological Link,
section and schematic concept

-“The future corridor will enable us to transition from a landscape that has been greatly modified by human beings, losing its biodiversity and resilience, to an abundant and diversified urban nature, connected and linked to human beings,” says Alan DeSousa, Mayor of the Borough of St-Laurent, particularly affected by Montréal’s fast-paced, car-oriented growth of the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

Poirier Boulevard, Perspective

A multidisciplinary competition

In 2018, the City of Montréal launched a national, multidisciplinary landscape architecture competition, in the hope of generating an innovative scheme to be implemented over the next 20 years. A team of four firms—civiliti, LAND Italia, Table Architecture, and Biodiversité Conseil—won the competition.

Perspective showing entrance to Philippe-Laheurte Park from Cavendish Boulevard
Section and schematic concept, entrance to Philippe-Laheurte Park from Cavendish Boulevard

The winning project’s “backbone” is a narrow strip of wasteland located under the overhead power lines along three main boulevards. According to the plan, the currently sterile lawns will be transformed into flowering meadows that will attract birds, pollinating insects, and small animals. Ground contours and a modulated topography will enliven this enriched landscape, breaking away from a feeling of homogeneity. The plan also includes new pedestrian trails and upgraded bicycle paths, as well as activity or rest areas for the enjoyment of St-Laurent workers and residents.

Section, schematic concept, and site plan, Cavendish Boulevard and Highway 40 Interchange
Section and schematic concept, Cavendish Boulevard
Diagram of existing and proposed habitats

Additional interventions will help reconnect existing and future green spaces, eventually creating a continuous corridor allowing animals, insects, and vegetation to regain their lost habitat. A spokesperson for civiliti, Fannie Duguay-Lefebvre summarized the proposal: “The corridor will enable the transition from a mostly asphalted, fragmented territory to a diversified urban landscape, connected to all living beings.”

Schematic concept and site plan, Thimens Boulevard Overpass

For St-Laurent residents and workers, this Biodiversity Corridor will provide a special space to discover nature in the heart of a bustling urban environment. More importantly, it will also serve as a laboratory for Montréal, Canada, as well as other cities and countries. The plan, prepared in collaboration with professionals from the borough’s Environment Division, is about reconciling the logic of the city and the logic of life.

Philippe-Laheurte Park, Ecological link
Philippe-Laheurte Park, Winter Perspective

National Urban Design Award

The Biodiversity Corridor Master Plan received a Special Jury Award for the category “Sustainable Development” in the 2020 edition of the National Urban Design Awards. Organized jointly by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), and the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA), the award is one of the top distinctions in Canada. As commented by the jury, “The promise of urban design is sustainable development—creating economic, environmental, social, and cultural benefits. While this project focuses on the environment, it reflects all Seven C’s’ of urban design: context, character, choice, connections, creativity, custodianship, and collaboration.”

Arrondissement de Saint-Laurent – Ville de Montréal
Division de l’environnement et de la protection du territoire

Research and Design Team
LAND Italia
Table Architecture
Biodiversité Conseil

Image credits: civiliti, LAND Italia, Table Architecture, Biodiversité Conseil

About Damian Holmes 3293 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at